Washington DC - Nigerian President’s attempt to “draw” King Mohammed VI into his election campaign did not surprise me. In fact, it highlights Rabat’s missed diplomatic opportunities in West Africa. On several occasions, I have called on Moroccan diplomats to reach out to Abuja and make a case for the Kingdom’s positions. Nigeria’s anti-Morocco stand at the African Union stems from a misunderstanding of the Western Sahara issue and a lack of a Moroccan diplomatic initiative to win over this African giant.
Washington DC – Nigerian President’s attempt to “draw” King Mohammed VI into his election campaign did not surprise me. In fact, it highlights Rabat’s missed diplomatic opportunities in West Africa. On several occasions, I have called on Moroccan diplomats to reach out to Abuja and make a case for the Kingdom’s positions. Nigeria’s anti-Morocco stand at the African Union stems from a misunderstanding of the Western Sahara issue and a lack of a Moroccan diplomatic initiative to win over this African giant.
Morocco’s long standing frosty diplomatic relations with Nigeria should have been a source of concern for Rabat. In a stunning move and as a part of an election maneuver, President Jonathan has invited a Moroccan emissary to visit Abuja, hoping to win over Muslim electorate.
The Moroccan Monarch refusal to hold a phone conversation with Nigerian President is understandable and appropriate. According the Moroccan Foreign Ministry, “the Sovereign refused to accept the request which he deemed “inappropriate” on grounds that it is linked to the important elections in Nigeria and also because of Nigeria’s positions regarding the sacred national, Arab and Islamic causes”.
It is clear from this statement that Moroccan officials are not happy with Nigeria’s positions on certain dossiers, and yet it seems that people close to King have not tried to rectify the situation. If the Palace’s foreign affairs’ advisers recognize the role Morocco can play in Nigerian politics, why haven’t they use it to persuade the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan to change his hostile positions on the Western Sahara?
Notwithstanding the fact that Abuja is strong supporter of Algerian positions, in reaching out to King Mohammed VI at the height of a close presidential election, Nigerian officials show how much they value the role the Monarch could play in their country.
Moroccan diplomats give the impression that they don’t have a plan on how to use the Kingdom’s religious clout to advance ethnic and religious reconciliation in Nigeria. If Rabat takes the initiative once the political uncertainty ends, it will certainly offset Algeria’s plan in the region and create an opening for a smoother relations with Nigeria’s next president.
Morocco’s diplomats admit that “the Nigerian authorities request for the phone conversation and the sending of a Nigerian envoy to the Kingdom is more akin to an attempt to gain Muslim votes than a normal diplomatic act”; and yet, they haven’t tried to solidify these religious links between the two nations.
Unlike its efforts in Mali, Niger and Senegal, Morocco was not aggressive and vocal in offering religious advice and assistance to the Nigerian authorities in the fight against the extremists of Book Haram.
To understand the politics surrounding Goodluck Jonathan political move, it is necessary to go back to the history of the Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria. Today, the former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari who is “projected” to win the elections, is banking on a strong support from Muslims, while Jonathan is expected to do well in the mainly Christian south. As such, Muslim defections will help the incumbent and this is why the call was made to King Mohammed VI.
Morocco’s shy and meager diplomatic overtures in Nigeria have been at the source of the deteriorating relations between the two nations, despite the presence of embassies in the two capitals. Abuja joined the Algerian camp on the Western Sahara and never left because of a lack of understanding of the Kingdom’s positions.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission